Best Ways to Recycle and Compost Dog Waste for Free
Dog waste should be composted, not put into a septic tank; it heats up enough to destroy pathogens and provides nutrients that can be utilized in your yard and under your trees. Composting dog waste also keeps tons of material being added to a landfill or sewer system that is already overwhelmed.
This article will explain how to correctly make a compost heap out of your dogs waste without buying all of those things other sites are trying to sell you.
It is unfortunate that since the introduction of Steve Solomon´s great Organic Gardeners Composting back in the 1980s that so many people have followed his suggestions without reasoning them out. Mr. Solomon—unaware of how to correctly compost dog stools to destroy parasites—recommended that dog waste not be added to compost. Since then, most articles recommend the same. For 15 years, there have been sites on the internet that claim to be “composting” dog waste but are actually proposing the construction of small sewage systems.
You can compost your dog´s poop
This article is not about to teach you how to build a dog waste septic system. If you want to do that, you can go out and buy a barrel and then there are about 100 other sites on the internet that will show you what to do. Sewage systems that require the purchase of large plastic containers and chemical inoculants purchased at the grocery store are neither friendly to the environment nor friendly to your budget.
This article will tell you the benefits of correctly composting your dog´s stool and also tell you how to do it properly. If you have a cat, and you use biodegradable litter, her waste can be added also.
Why Bother Composting Dog Waste?
Each year, tons of dog stool are thrown into trash cans and end up in sanitary landfills. When dog waste is composted, it becomes a nutrient that will improve your yard and trees. When your soil is lacking in organic matter, no amount of chemical fertilizer you purchase is going to improve things the way you want. The compost you produce, with the material you already have on hand (dog waste), will improve things the way you want.
If you live in an apartment, I realize that this is not a viable option. You have nowhere to compost and wouldn’t have anything to do with the compost anyway.
Are there problems with using dog waste?
There are some pathogens that can spread from dogs to humans. Most of the bacteria will die easily, and in The Humanure Handbook (Chapter 7, Worms and Disease), the author says that roundworms can survive for 90 days in a shady area.
The University of Minnesota did some research in this area and determined that in order to destroy harmful worm eggs your compost would need to exceed 165 degrees for five days. The University of Oregon ran tests and determined that a compost pile that reached 130 degrees and was turned five times (at three-day intervals) would no longer contain pathogens.
If you live in a suburb and only have a small space, you really need to build or buy a compost system. I have added a plan here and there are numerous videos available on YouTube to help you build a compost bin. If you need further instructions on how to utilize this composting system, you can purchase an e-book called Humanure Toilet Instruction Manual.
How Do I Compost Dog Waste the Right Way?
You do not need to buy a storage bin, you certainly do not need to buy a chemical to add to your compost mixture. The process is ridiculously simple.
- Mark the area where you will be composting. Some people will need to do it in a trash bin to save space, and if you have a smaller back yard this is the best way. If you need to save money find an old trash bin that someone is throwing out--just drill holes around the side and in the bottom of the trash bin and put it in the place where you want to make your compost. (If you have a larger yard you might want to build a compost bin out of old wood or pallets that you can get for free; if you live on a farm just make a pile and do not even bother building a structure to hold the compost.)
- When you pick up a shovel full of dog stool, cover it with a shovel full of carbon material like grass clippings. (Since the carbon: nitrogen ratio of dog stool is about 6:1—similar to chicken manure and much better than cow manure—you only need to add about one scoop of carbon material to cover two scoops of stool.) I have a friend who is a carpenter so I always have access to wood shavings; that is what I use. If you want to use grass clippings that is fine, and since they rot quickly they are even a better choice.
- Every few days (if you need a rigid schedule do it every Monday and Thursday) toss a shovel full of old compost on to the pile so that there will be beneficial bacteria to speed up the digestion. If you are starting out, just use dirt from your garden. If you have seen those other sites that tell you to buy a product and dump it on top of your compost, do not buy! Those "starter bacteria" are all found in dirt and you do not need to waste your money.
- Keep the pile moist; if you have fish add their water when you are cleaning out their tank.
- Optional: If you really want to produce high quality compost, add some worms. (This is called vermicomposting.) You will need to add fruit peelings and coffee grounds as an additional feed for the worms but they will also eat the dog stool. They will produce a high quality fertilizer. By the time the worms have consumed your dog stool compost you will have high quality humus that will contain no pathogens. There are many articles available on how to farm red worms and if you want to go this direction you really should read more. If you run into any that tell you not to use dog waste, they are wrong. They are repeating incorrect information.
An acquaintance of mine has an organic coffee plantation; he maintains all of the plants only on humus produced by his worms. If you have purchased organic coffee at Starbucks or your grocery store then you already use humus. If you use worms you will be able to produce your own.
If you are fecophobic, you can add dog waste in biodegradable bags to your compost heap. It is going to take many more years to return to soil if you use this method, and I certainly do not suggest trying to add worms as they will have nothing to feed on.
Will Dog Feces Kill the Worms in My Compost?
Some dogs are given a monthly topical flea control or now take an oral flea control. These medications work in several ways but most of them affect the nervous system of insects. Those that do not cause the insect´s exoskeleton to not form correctly.
They all affect insects. Earthworms, those wonderful animals that help build your compost, are annelids, not insects. There are no studies done to show that these products will affect your earthworms, even in massive quantities, and in the tiny quantities passed in dog feces the people recommending you not use dog feces for this reason are being ridiculous.
If you are willing to spend the time to compost your dog´s stool, I hope that you use natural flea control instead of applying yet another chemical to your dog.
How to Use Dog Poop After Composting?
I would not eat a teaspoonful of dog waste compost. Neither would I eat a teaspoonful of humanure compost, chicken manure compost, or fresh dirt. If you have maintained a proper composting system the product will have no pathogens, but I still recommend it be used on your lawn, on your ornamental bushes, and around your trees. I have about a dozen coconut and many banana trees that are always searching for additional nutrients. If you have fruit trees, a hedge, or a lawn they will appreciate the compost and pay you back by flourishing.
The compost is ready to be used when it looks like regular soil. I cannot tell you an exact time because it will vary depending on your environmental conditions. If you live in the northern US your compost heap will not even heat up during the winter; here in the tropics (and with a healthy worm population working on my compost), my pile is usually ready to spread in about three months. I have compost piles in several areas and tend to leave it longer.
If you want to destroy our environment by selfishly throwing your dog´s stool into our landfills, flushing it down the toilet, or (even worse) buy a product that freezes the feces before you pick it up just so that the task will be a little easier, perhaps you are not the type of person who should even be owning a dog.
Think about it.
Are You Ready to Be a Responsible Dog Owner?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I have had a puppy for two months now, and would like to compost its waste. What do you do about the smell? The trash can smells pretty bad when poop is tied up in disposal bags in it. Wouldn't the smell be worse if the poop were just loose in a compost pile? Also, in Indiana, I will probably have to use a bin, since a pile will be covered with snow in the winter.
As long as you use plenty of grass clippings to cover the dog stool each time you toss it on the compost, there is no smell. It does not stink like the stool in the trash because it is covered up and starts breaking down as soon as you add it to the compost.
I use wood shavings to cover my pile, and in your area, you will probably need to use leaves in the fall and winter.
I would not worry about the snow. The heat from the compost will probably melt the snow on top, and the moisture will leach into your compost. Just keep a bag or pile of leaves next to your compost pile or bin to throw on top of the stool as you add it.Helpful 30
I have four and sometimes more dogs. They produce 2-3 lbs of waste daily, and are fed a primarily raw diet. Do I need to turn the compost pile? And if so, how often? Will I need any additional enzymes, or will grass clippings, leaves and dirt alone do it?
You do not need to add enzymes or other additives. The material that you add will have bacteria that will allow the compost to develop naturally.
Yes, you need to turn it a few times until it is digested. I usually wait until the compost bin is full and then turn the whole pile into my next bin. Do so again in a month or two (depending on how warm it is where you are at.)Helpful 17
Can wood ashes be used as a carbon product when composting dog feces?
Ashes are just minerals that are left over after the carbon has been destroyed in the fire. They are great to add but should be layered on after you put down the dog feces and grass clippings or leaves (the carbon source).
Water will help the ashes mix into the compost. When your compost is full, and you are ready to turn it into the next pile, the wood ashes will be mixed in even more. Your compost will be great.Helpful 10
Could I follow this guide for composting dog waste if I wanted to set up this in a large scale for a shelter holding about 50-60 dogs?
Yes, but you will have to be sure that you have an adequate and consistent carbon source (like grass clippings or leaves). Some people keep a bale of straw next to the compost pile since it is available at all times.
If you do not cover the feces adequately each time it is added it will build up flies and will stink.Helpful 9
We live in Southern Cal so we would probably have to go the trash can route. Do the lawn clippings used in composting have to be fresh? We don't mow the lawns every week, every 2 weeks, so I imagine we would have to stock pile some clippings before getting started. Also, do you have to turn the mixture as it composts in the trash can? If so, how often does the compost have to be turned and how long could we expect the composting process to take to be able to use this in the planters?
If you are using the trash can it is a good idea to keep a bale of straw next to your compost to add to keep your compost from clumping up. How often do you need to turn it? The more often the better, at least once a week, but if you do not turn it at all the compost will still work, just take longer. With a trash can, it will take about three to six months, depending on how warm your area is. (Here in the tropics it takes about 3 months, probably will not be much longer in southern Cal.)Helpful 6
© 2012 Dr Mark